Archive for June 20th, 2013

A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples.  –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Macbeth and Banquo Meeting the Witches on the Heath by Théodore Chassériau (1855)Every profession has its superstitions, and those falling under the general heading of entertainment – acting, sports, music, sex work and others – are among the worst.  Athletes have various taboos about their equipment and some won’t change their clothes during a winning streak; actors won’t say the phrase “good luck” or mention the play Macbeth  backstage for fear of drawing down disaster; musicians often have lucky charms or pre-show rituals.  Since one of the greatest harms which can befall a whore is to be arrested, there are a plethora of magical rituals, formulae or prohibitions which are used by the superstitious to ward off that probability.  Not one of these has even the slightest basis in reality, but many swear by them and cannot be convinced that they do absolutely nothing to reveal a cop, prevent arrest or serve as a defense in court.

Probably the most common of these superstitions is the “cop test”; many hookers believe that there are certain things a cop is not allowed to do (such as take off his shoes, display his penis, feel her tits, etc), and therefore if a man will do one of those things he isn’t a cop.  Probably the most absurd of these is also the most common: it is believed (by many drug users as well as whores) that if a cop is asked the question “are you a cop?” or “are you affiliated with law enforcement?” or whatever, he has to answer truthfully.  These tests are doubly ridiculous because even if they were true in the first place (which they aren’t), a cop could still simply lie in the police report and in court to say he didn’t do whatever it was he wasn’t supposed to do.  This is why that other common ritual, the payment ceremony, is just as useless as the cop test:  if you let a cop in your door or walk into his, it doesn’t matter whether he hands you the money in an envelope or a roll, whether you count it in front of him or not, whether you pick it up or leave it lying on the nightstand, or even whether he gives it to you at all; the police report will say you agreed specifically to perform certain sex acts for a set sum, no matter what you actually did or said.  As the expression goes, “you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride”; if you meet a cop and he wants to arrest you he will do so, even if you aren’t even a hooker, and no magical formula will prevent that.

abracadabraThe notion that certain rites, gestures and words will protect those who use them from malevolent beings is an ancient one, as is the complementary idea that these creatures cannot do perfectly ordinary things that humans can do with ease.  Vampires cannot pass running water, go out in the daytime or enter a house without permission; they are revealed by mirrors and repelled by crosses and garlic.  Devils cannot pass through certain magical inscriptions and must abide by the letter of any pact to which they agree.  Fairies are repelled by salt and iron, and can only gain power over mortals who venture away from known paths or break certain rules.  Why do people believe these things?  Why were the monsters of folklore not basically unlimited and virtually unstoppable like those in so many modern movies, and why do people insist on believing that the power of modern villains is bounded by these same kinds of mystical geases and taboos?  It’s because we need to sleep at night.  Vampires, devils and faeries were very real to our ancestors, unlike the fictional villains of modern movies; you know very well that Jason and Chucky and Freddy Kreuger and the alien aren’t real, so it doesn’t matter if there are no limits on their power.  But if you believed that they were real, and you lived in a thatched cottage that wouldn’t keep out a determined dog (much less a werewolf), you had better believe there were rules the monsters had to follow and wards to keep them away, or else you’d live in a perpetual state of fear.

Modern harlots are like those peasants of earlier times; we are surrounded by powerful predatory fiends lying in wait to pounce on the unwary victim in order to drag her off to their lair.  So it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that many of us choose to believe that there is a mirror or incantation that will dissolve their disguises and reveal the corrupt beasts beneath, or a charm that will offer protection to the one who knows how to use it.  Unfortunately, we are at a disadvantage in comparison to our ancestors:  while their magical wards never failed because the monsters they were intended to foil never truly existed in the first place, the threats to our freedom and safety are very real…and the magical formulae to which we cling are utterly powerless against them.

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